The Love Of Lists: It’s Genetic

September 26, 2012 by Michelle

I wrote a couple weeks ago about how my morning routine had driven me to the brink.  I wasn’t a good mom that day, but by later that day, I had recovered.  I came up with a plan to help make my morning smoother and help the wee ones take responsibility for what they need to do to get out the door – or suffer the consequences.  Mister Man’s lack of focus – or at least focus where I and his teachers need him to focus – is a major issue in many parts of his life, mornings included.

Much like I know that I get so much more done when I have a to do list, I know the wee ones do, too.  So I made them one in the morning that listed not just what they had to do, but by when it had to be complete.  They’re still young enough that they need that coaching, and I’m happy to coach.  I’m just not happy saying “Let’s go!  Let’s go!  You need to move faster!” nonstop for an hour plus every morning.

So I’m not.

To do list for the wee ones on the portable whiteboard

I made the list on a magnetic whiteboard (I love the no whining logo on it – $1 section at Target!) that the wee ones can erase each morning as they finish their tasks.  I give each task plenty of time – does it really take five minutes to put your shoes on? – because I want them to feel like they’re successful at what they’re doing, not that they’re stressed out by what’s coming next.  I recognize that tasks that I can focus on and accomplish in 30 seconds need more of a leeway, especially for Mister Man.  While I want to improve his focus, I also want him to feel like he’s being a success.  It’s baby steps.

The first morning, Mister Man had eaten three bites of breakfast by 7:45, the appointed end time for breakfast.  I told him to get up and move to his next task.  He looked at me blankly, but did as I directed.  By the time he got to teeth brushed at 8am, he was ahead of schedule again, so he was able to sit down for a few more minutes where – amazingly – he actually ate half his breakfast, something he hadn’t been able to accomplish in 30 minutes earlier.  They were on time for the bus, and it was awesome, even if breakfast wasn’t fully eaten.

The second morning, breakfast was still a challenge, but Mister Man had eaten a little more and got ahead enough that he had time to finish all of it before he had to brush his teeth.  And he was proud of what he was doing and accomplishing.  I wasn’t hustling anyone along, and I could feel my blood pressure decreasing.  Phew.

It’s now been almost two weeks, and the vast majority of the time, Mister Man is putting his dishes in the dishwasher long before 7:45.  He knows what he has to do, as does Little Miss, and he’s doing it by himself and taking responsibility for it.  He’s decided that he loves lists, too – especially the crossing things off it part.

I still have some attitude each morning when I tell him he needs to start on his routine and get dressed at 7:10.  He whines that he hasn’t had enough time to play, as both the wee ones are early birds and up before me.  There wouldn’t be enough time to play if he did it 24/7 though, and I know that.  We’re working on the whining because that grates on my nerves, but we’ve made so much progress with our mornings and everyone is happier.

Now if only I could keep it this way through the teen years….

What are your secrets for getting through the morning effectively?

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  • Sandra


    I'm glad to hear that the dry erase board is working well for the wee ones! It does feel quite rewarding to cross off or erase items on a list, and I'm sure Mister Man is getting the hang of it all now. As for my mornings? We just have a short window to accomplish our morning routine, so it's do it or miss the bus. So they do it, because there's no time to even start playing. I feel like I'm herding sheep most mornings. 🙂

  • Pat


    Echoing what Sandra said, there was no playing on school mornings because they didn't have any time for that. I don't recall hassles with them getting ready, though there probably were (that was decades ago). They just got up, got dressed, came upstairs and ate breakfast (sometimes brushed their teeth) and then either walked to the bus stop or got a ride with Daddy. As I mentioned before, they did not want to get in trouble with Dad.

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